What the Expo 2020 Dubai opening ceremony performers wore on stage

Lebanese designers dominated the evening with some dresses created especially for the event

From Mayssa Karaa’s custom made dress inspired by Al Wasl Plaza to Angelique Kidjo’s ode to Africa and Ellie Goulding’s dramatic cape, performers at the spectacular opening ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai made sure they were dressed for the occasion on Thursday night.

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Lebanese singer and Berklee Abu Dhabi artistic director Karaa, who performed the Expo’s theme song This is Our Time alongside Emirati pop star Hussain Al Jassmi and soul singer Almas, wore a tailored jumpsuit by Beirut designer Jean-Louis Sabaji. The deep V-neck suit was finished off with a glorious embroidered cape inspired by the iconic dome of Al Wasl Plaza, the Expo's centrepiece.

Grammy Award-winning Beninese singer Kidjo, who performed a French version of John Legend's If You’re Out There along with Saudi crooner Mohamed Abdu – who sang in Arabic – wore a fringed dress by Cameroonian designer Imane Ayissi. Known for his use of African textiles in his contemporary creations, Kidjo and Ayissi, who's also a model, have collaborated many times in the past.

British pop star Goulding, who's returned to the music scene five months after giving birth to her son Arthur, also wore a dramatic cape by Lebanese designer Mohammed Ashi.

Performing her 2012 global hit Anything Could Happen, Goulding's billowing asymmetric silk cape dress from Ashi Studio's autumn/winter '21 collection, added a dramatic touch to the proceedings as dancers whirled around her in white robes and clouds filled the dome.

Emirati pop star Ahlam, who debuted the song Fi Dubai (In Dubai), a vibrant ode to the emirate, performed in a striking Zuhair Murad gown. The heavily embellished blue gown by the Lebanese designer was the perfect accompaniment to Ahlam's stirring new song, which she performed backed by the Firdaus Women's Orchestra, under the baton of Lebanese composer Yasmina Sabbah.

"Welcome to our home in Dubai," the singer posted in French later.

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli closed off the night with a stirring rendition of his 1999 Grammy Award-winning hit The Prayer. The singer, who performed the official theme song La forza del sorriso (The Strength of a Smile) for the Milan Expo in 2015, was then joined by all of the evening's performers – including American singer Andra Day and pianist Lang Lang – as a final firework display burst in the skies over the site.

Scroll through the gallery above for all the performances at the opening ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Updated: October 1st 2021, 12:25 PM